After water, tea is the most popular beverage worldwide. In order to make tea you need water of course. A cup of tea is prepared of 99% of water but this is often the one ingredient overlooked. People always look for the best brands of tea and the finest leaves available, beautiful tea-ware and fancy recipes, but how about the water they use? If you are one of those people who think “it’s just water after all”, you might want to reconsider because the water you use to brew your favorite cup of tea can greatly affect the taste of it.
The Chinese stress the importance of the water, which they call “mother of tea”. According to the Chinese tea scholar Lu Yu, it is ideal to use the same water to make the tea as the water that was used to water the tea plants of that region. Of course not all of us have the fortune to live by a tea plantation but there are things we need to know regarding the water we use for our tea and ways to make sure that we use the best there is for it.
What does water quality depend on and why is it so important for tea?
It is true that to enjoy the true soul of the finest cup of tea you need good quality water. If the water you use is not tasty alone then your tea will not be as great either. Water tastes different depending on whether you use mineral water or tap water and in the last case, of where you live too. The quality of the water you use depends mainly on these factors:
- PH levels: Water is alkaline or acidic depending on its PH. Ideally “soft” water must be neutral, which means it must have a PH level of 7. If your water’s PH is more than 7 then it is acidic. If it is less than 7 then it is considered alkaline. Alkaline water wouldn’t be the best for tea production since since it doesn’t deliver as much flavor. But generally tap and spring water are more on the alkaline side. Tea tends to be mildly acidic itself so your water should be neutral to balance its taste.
- Chemical levels and mineral levels: You have probably heard about “soft” and “hard” water before. Unless you are lucky enough to live by the mountain springs, most likely the water in your area is hard which means it contains more chemicals and mineral impurities such as calcium oxide, magnesium and sodium. If your water tastes salty, smells like chlorine and looks cloudy it should be avoided since that is an indication of high chemical and mineral content in it. Your water’s taste and odor are affected by the minerals and chemicals contained in it and that impacts your tea’s aroma and taste. On the other hand, it should be noted that some minerals are beneficial for water’s taste and they interact well with tea leaves resulting in a better tasting cup of tea. Small levels of Magnesium, Sodium and Calcium enhance and compliment the tea’s taste.
- Contained oxygen: Another factor to consider when it comes to water quality is how fresh your water is. Water contains dissolved gasses and mainly oxygen. Each time you boil your water, it loses its oxygen. Also water that has been staying in your kettle for hours tends to be less rich in oxygen. Fresh water aerates the tea and gives it a much fuller, richer flavor. You should always start with fresh water and always avoid reheating it.
- Starting temperature of water: Last but not least, the starting temperature of your water is also important when it comes to tea making. Putting hot water in your kettle can make your tea taste less desirable for two reasons. First, as mentioned above hot water has less oxygen. Especially the hot water in your house is stored in a hot water heater for too long which leads to more oxygen escaping. The second reason is that the water heating systems used in houses are made out of metal. With water being stored in there for prolonged periods of time it is more likely to get exposed to chemicals and minerals that accumulate in there and of course it is not unlikely that it will pick up an unwanted metallic flavor. Bottom line, always use cool water. It is much fresher, tastier and healthier.
What kind of water to avoid?
The one kind of water you should never use to make tea is distilled water. Distilled water has virtually no dissolved minerals at all making it a much healthier choice for you. However, this is the exact reason why you should avoid it. Small levels of minerals actually make water taste better as mentioned above. Even though using it for tea won’t leave any mineral deposits in your tea-ware, it will leave your tea very flat-tasting, lifeless and dull.
How to ensure water quality?
Now the question is: “Ok, how do I make sure the water I use is of the highest quality possible”?
Unfortunately you have no control over the water that ends up to your house. Although the U.S. has one of the safest water supplies in the world, in many cases harmful chemicals and minerals are still present in it, making it taste not too pure. And if your water doesn’t taste good then why would you use it for your tea? Some people choose to use bottled mineral water to prepare tea which in my opinion is unnecessary since it is more costly. The best way to make sure your water is soft is to simply use a simple faucet water filter. According to the Tea Association of the United States:
Water softening equipment will help to reduce or eliminate water hardness caused by excessive mineral content.
I personally use PUR 3-Stage Vertical Faucet filter to ensure great quality water for me and my family and of course delicious tea! I love it for the taste it gives to my water and I think it dramatically changed the taste of my tea (for the better of course). It can literally transform your tap water to crispy, clean, delicious, mineral water and you will be pleasantly surprised by the way your tea smells and tastes. It is very easy to set up and is definitely worth the price.
So what do you think?
I hope I’ve convinced you to use fresher and healthier water next time you prepare yourself a cup of tea. It really matters!
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment below..